Opening address by Minister Kimmo Sasi at the World Bank 2nd Knowledge Economy Forum

Opening address by Minister Kimmo Sasi at the World Bank 2nd Knowledge Economy Forum

Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
Unit for Cooperation with Neighbouring Areas

The World Bank Second Knowledge Economy Forum:
Implementing Knowledge Economy Strategies: Innovation, Life-Long Learning Partnerships, Networks, and Inclusion

Helsinki, March 25-28, 2003

Opening of the Forum by the Minister of Transport and Communication Mr. Kimmo Sasi

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to welcome you to Finland and to the Knowledge Economy Forum. The forum is arranged by the World Bank and hosted by the Goverment of Finland. I would like to thank our partners for paving the way for this important occasion.

The World Bank's first Knowledge Economy Forum convened in Paris in February 2002. The emphasis of the Paris Forum was on formulating knowledge economy strategies for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in laying the foundations for market economies and democratic societies to flourish.

Encouraged by the favourable outcome of the first forum and in close cooperation with the World Bank, Finland is determined to promote its goals and share its own knowledge in this sector. Whereas the emphasis of the Paris Forum was on formulating knowledge economy strategies and on assessing the current state of efforts in this area, the goal of the Helsinki Forum will be to proceed from theory towards implementation of the strategies.

It is a great honour to act as host of the Forum, and we are happy to be able to share our experiences of putting knowledge economy strategies into practice. I believe that Finland can offer a viable European example of the development of the knowledge economy through various strategies and their implementation. Our experiences focus on education, life-long learning and innovation systems as well as on social inclusion, equity and partnerships between the government and the private and non-profit sectors. The Finnish Government emphasizes the value of education, since it is one of the basic elements of development. However, we need to bear in mind that this is something that calls for continuous development. I hope that the results of the Forum will enhance knowledge economy -related contacts between the countries, authorities and organizations that are involved in the cooperation and that the network of contacts will expand.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finland has, over the years, accumulated considerable experience of the countries of Eastern Europe. At present, this tradition manifests in Finland’s neighbouring area cooperation, which is part of the Northern Dimension for the Policies of the European Union. Finland’s neighbouring area cooperation is an excellent area for pilot projects in the theme of this Forum, knowledge economy.

That is why for us, this Forum is an element of Finland’s neighbouring area cooperation, which has been conducted for more than ten years. Our theme today is the knowledge economy, but I would like to draw your attention to the fact that our neighbouring area cooperation covers all the various sectors of society. This is an excellent foundation for our joint efforts to develop the knowledge economy since it is a domain that embraces all the various sectors of society on the horizontal plane, ranging from the development of public administration to business and regional policy. The Forum will complement different countries' own endeavours and measures to develop the information society.

Our cooperation with the international financing institutions and other international organizations in the context of the implementation of Finland’s neighbouring area cooperation has been beneficial to all the parties. Based on this positive experience, Finland would like to continue and improve this cooperation.

As already mentioned, the cooperation with the neighbouring areas is Finland’s national instrument in the implementation of the Northern Dimension for the Policies of the European Union. The Northern eDimension, NeDAP, an initiative for the Northern regions of Europe to cooperate in the field of information society, is a good example of regional cooperation, which is enhancing knowledge economy. Its goal is to accelerate the Northern Dimension Area's transition to the information society and to ensure greater coherence between the states that compiles the Northern Dimension Area.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It's my firm believe that this Forum is another milestone in the development of the knowledge economy and it will certainly have an impact on a number of other sectors of cooperation, too. Investment opportunities, which enhance the cooperation between private and public sectors, must not remain unnoticed. Communications technology creates opportunities for trade and industry. We can easily say that especially mobile communications and e-commerce have been a boost towards greater investment in innovative new technology, because they open up entirely new possibilities for business and create markets for firms. I am convinced that in this framework, the knowledge economy should play a crucial role in and make a significant contribution to the economies in Europe.

I want to, once more, like to extend my warmest thanks to the World Bank for having arranged this Forum. The meeting itself is a manifestation of true commitment by all participants to enhancing knowledge economy strategies in practice.

I wish every success to this seminar and hope that you will enjoy your stay in Finland.